After having “non-rev” privileges with Southwest Airlines, Christy dove into the world of points and miles so she could continue traveling for free. Her other passion is personal finance, and is a cer...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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When you think of popular credit card networks, Visa and Mastercard probably come to mind first. But are there other major companies that dominate the credit card market? What are the most popular credit card issuers? Are Americans choosing general-purpose cards that can be used at a variety of retailers, or gravitating towards retail cards that can only be used at specific stores?
There’s an 82% chance you have at least 1 credit card, per the Federal Reserve,¹ and according to Experian,² the average American has 3.84 cards. This means that you have a lot of options when it comes to which types of cards you open, how many you have, and how much you decide to spend on each card. Read on to find out which types of cards are the most popular.
A credit card network sets the terms for credit card transactions, authorizes them, and processes them. The credit card market in the U.S. has primarily 4 major players: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. These differ primarily in terms of global acceptance and perks, but also by market share.Hot Tip:
Still confused about the difference between credit card networks and issuers? Don’t worry — we have a guide for you! Check out our list of major credit card companies and card networks, including history, most popular cards, and more.
In terms of purchasing volume, Visa is the clear leader with more than $2.09 trillion through the first 3 quarters of 2022 (up from $2 trillion for the entirety of 2021). Mastercard is the second-closest competitor with $967 billion. American Express and Discover round out the networks at $793 billion and $154 billion, respectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact across the board. People spent less money overall in 2020 compared to 2019, but purchase volume saw an increase in 2021. This increase in volume continued in 2022.
Visa is the clear frontrunner in terms of purchase volume in 2022. The same can be said over the past 5 years as well — with Visa always maintaining at least 40% of the market share among the 4 major networks. Visa’s dominance did drop from around 50% in 2021 to only 41.7% in 2022 – its lowest market share in over 5 years.
Mastercard had been consistent at around 22% of the market share across the past 5 years but increased in 2022 to 27.41%. American Express’s market share is currently 10.17%. Discover, while the smallest in terms of the major networks, currently holds 7.13% of the market share over the past 5 years. There are a few other smaller networks that round out the remaining market share.
So who holds the top spot for the number of credit cards in circulation in the U.S.?
Visa comes in at the top, at 57.5% of all cards in circulation globally in 2022. People appear to be gradually moving towards Mastercard as its share has steadily increased over the years and it currently holds 37.5% of the cards in circulation in 2022. American Express and Discover remain fairly consistent by percentage over this same time period at around 1% to 2%.
Credit card issuers, such as banks, retailers, or credit unions, issue credit cards to consumers. There are a lot of credit card issuers, but still only a handful with the largest piece of the market. Thus, we’ve limited our data to the top 15.
We’ve included both general-purpose and store card issuers. For example, issuers such as Synchrony Financial, Citi Retail Services, and Alliance Data Systems all issue store cards for businesses such as Old Navy, Sam’s Club, and more.
Outstanding balance shows how much much of your credit limit you have available — and the card issuer sets credit limits. This data factors in both people who pay off their balance on their cards each month as well as people who are carrying a balance on their cards.
What does an outstanding balance include?
Chase was the largest issuer in terms of outstanding balances in 2021 at $154.30 billion. Citibank, Bank of America, Capital One, and U.S. Bank round out the top 5. There are a lot more than 15 card issuers, but when you combine the outstanding balances from the remaining issuers, it all adds up to less than any of the top 5 issuers.
While all issuers saw a drop in purchasing volume in 2020, purchase volume in both 2021 and 2022 increased. American Express and Chase saw the biggest jump in numbers from the pandemic to the present.
Chase and American Express were 2022’s top issuers in terms of market share by purchase volume, both with a volume of about $1 trillion to $1.14 trillion. In fact, these 2 issuers were the top 2 over the past 5 years as well.
Citibank, Bank of America, and Capital One made up the second tier of issuers, hovering in the $500 billion range. The remaining 3 banks in the last tier include U.S. Bank, Discover, and Wells Fargo in the $170 to $210 billion range.
While Americans may have spent less on their credit cards in 2020 compared to prior years, this has steadily increased since then. There is no doubt that credit cards are still the dominant way to pay for purchases. Overall, the differences between cards, including things like global acceptance, perks, and rewards, lead to variations in market share between these networks and issuers.
And when it comes to market share in the credit card market, there are definitely a few key players — both by network and issuer. Visa and Mastercard have reigned supreme on the network side, while general-purpose cards from Chase, Citi, and Bank of America make up the biggest chunk on the card issuer side.
¹ The Federal Reserve. (May 2023). Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2023 – May 2023. https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2023-economic-well-being-of-us-households-in-2022-executive-summary.htm
² Lembo Stolba, S. (2021, April 8). What Is the Average Number of Credit Cards per US Consumer? Experian. https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/average-number-of-credit-cards-a-person-has/
³ Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. (October 2023) The Consumer Credit Card Market. https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/cfpb_consumer-credit-card-market-report_2023.pdf
⁴ The New York Fed. (August 2023) Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit 2023:Q3. https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/householdcredit/data/pdf/HHDC_2023Q2
⁶ Nilson Report. (February 2022). https://nilsonreport.com/publication_newsletter_archive_issue.php?issue=1213
There are many ways to measure market share for credit cards. Visa makes up the largest market share for networks in terms of cards in circulation as well as purchase volume in 2022.
Chase is the largest issuer in 2022 by both purchase volume and outstanding balance.
Visa is the biggest credit card network in the U.S. in terms of both purchase volume and credit cards in circulation in 2022. Visa has made up over 50% of both of these statistics for the past 5 years, however, in 2022, Visa fell to only 41.7% of purchase volume.
In 2022, the 4 biggest credit card networks in the U.S. (in order) were Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. Visa and Mastercard combined to make up over 75% of the market share, while American Express and Discover make up a much smaller portion of the market.
In 2022, Chase is the bank that issued the most credit cards — both in terms of purchase volume and outstanding balances. It gets a bit complicated as American Express is both a credit card network and an issuer. As of 2022, American Express was the second-largest issuer of credit cards in the U.S.
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